hope bridge

Hope Bridge Day 1

Production has begun. Day 1 of Hope Bridge is in the books. When you shoot a feature, you try to start off with a simple day. The goal is to get off on the right foot. You want to build teamwork and see how people are going to work together. It’s all about finding a rhythm.

Our goal was to shoot 2 scenes which would translate into about 3 and a half minutes of screen time. First you want to stay on schedule. All I can say is mission accomplished; however, we did have our challenges. It rained and continued to rain throughout the day. Let me correct that. It actually poured.

That would have been fine if we had been shooting indoors. But, by chance, our first day was scheduled for exterior shots. Somehow, the crew made it work. In fact, our director, Joshua Overbay, sorta welcomed the rain. He felt that the rain created the mood and the emotional impact that he was looking to achieve. Maybe we got lucky or, perhaps, it was a divine intervention.

For those who are not familiar with Hope Bridge, the movie stars Booboo Stewart, who is a teenager searching for answers about his father’s recent death and potential suicide. It’s a film that offers a powerful and compelling story.

I asked Isaac Stambaugh, who is the unit production manager, what he thought about the first day. “It was pretty good. We overcame several obstacles. We accomplished everything we wanted to and then some. We got what we needed. This says something about the character of the crew. We dealt with equipment problems, rain, vehicles that wouldn’t start, and a camera that accidentally got locked up. Maybe, it’s not time to spike the football, but we certainly had several first downs.”

For anybody who hasn’t been on a movie set, the days are long. Several of the crew members are here at 6 a.m. to set up. The final teardown wasn’t until 7:30 p.m. That’s a thirteen and a half day.

Hat’s off to the PAs who help to control traffic and had to stand out in the pouring rain for most of the day.

That’s it for Day 1.

Hope Bridge - Day 2

Well, there’s no doubt about it. Hope Bridge is now in full production mode. We’ve moved from Wilmore to Lawrenceburg where a significant part of our film will be shot. Lawrenceburg is as Americana as it gets, especially its classic representation of “Main Street USA”. It is a perfect place to open our production office and get to work.

With that in mind, day 2 of production was a full day lasting well into the night and ending at 3:00 a.m. We upped our game and shot six and a half minutes of screen time. I’m sure the crew was exhausted, but there was a sense of satisfaction in our continued progress of making a movie that we can be proud of and that will undoubtedly make an impact on culture.

Our main location for the day was a downtown bar located on Main Street. Our art department had the responsibility of transforming the location into Jim’s Pool Hall. It’s really amazing when you walk into a location and you think “we’re really going to shoot here”.

Teresa Strebler is our production designer. Teresa and her team performed their magic by transforming the bar into a place that actually became a character in our film. It’s amazing watching them make the impossible possible.

Teresa said that they came in with a blank canvas, and three hours later she and her crew of three turned over the set to our director, Joshua Overbay. She went on to say that there were a number of logos that had to be covered up. “We produced 20 band posters to decorate the walls. We also used classic road signs and state license plates to give the place a finished look. The DP wanted to use the existing lights over the pool tables. So we had to make that work with fake covers over existing logos. Overall, I was happy with the results considering the time we had.”

I had a chance to see some of the footage, and all I can say is, “It looks impressive”. The smoke effect added a whole new dimension. Teresa is a graduate of Ohio University. She got interested in production design in college when she began to wonder why there wasn’t anything on the walls in the student films she was working on. She says, “What I do is not to look at things as they are but how they can be.” Her goal is to embellish each set to actually become a character in the story.

Usually, after a few days of preparation and a couple of days of actual production, you usually see a few cracks. To tell you the truth, I don’t see any signs of tension or conflict. There are good things going on in Lawrenceburg, and Hope Bridge looks like it’s shaping up to be something special.

Sunday is a day off, and I hope everybody gets some well-needed rest. There’s much more to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 4

Do you ever wonder why they keep making the same movies over and over? Whether it’s a government experiment gone wrong, which leads to a deadly virus that turns people into flesh-eating zombies or a group of teenagers who venture into a remote location only to be picked off by some deranged killer. Or perhaps you’ve seen the latest home invasion movie. I’m sure most people have seen these types of movies countless times. Perhaps, they ask themselves when is somebody going to make a movie worth seeing.

Well, that answer is Hope Bridge, a film currently being shot in and around Lawrenceburg, KY. It’s thrilling to be making a movie, and I’m sure the cast and crew would agree that it’s an added bonus to be involved with a movie that has an opportunity to impact lives, a movie about something that matters.

Most people who work in the movie business seldom get that opportunity. As I move around and chat with folks, I get a sense of purpose and vision from everybody involved in the production of this film. So thank you cast and crew for your dedication in making a movie that matters.

Moving on, today is our last day before four straight night shoots as in 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. So sleep is going to be in short supply. Today’s scenes mostly involved Kevin Sorbo and Booboo Stewart. The location was primarily centered around Lawrenceburg City Hall.

Sorbo plays Eric in the film as a mentor and counselor to Stewart’s character Jackson. Later in the week comes a dramatic scene at the bridge between Eric and Jackson. More on that later.

As I travel around the set, one thing that strikes me is how many people are involved in making a movie. There are a lot of people we probably never think about who perform vital roles. One area is craft. Stephanie Kruthaupt, a film graduate from Eastern Michigan University, oversees craft operations. It’s her job to feed and water the crew. She sees her role as vital and important to the overall health of cast and crew. She says, “Dinner time is a time to chill out, take a break from the stress, a bonding time.” Stephanie enjoys seeing a smile on their faces. She realizes good food goes a long way in achieving good production with effective output. Her view on craft is “You don’t think about it until it’s not working. It’s an important job.”

Craft is new to Stephanie. This is her first time. She’s having fun, and she wants to be in the moment. She says that she’s got something special planned in the days ahead. Her message to the crew is she encourages everyone to waste less so we can have better food options as the production continues. That’s good advice, indeed. 

I think everybody is going to find Hope Bridge refreshing because it’s original, different, and absolutely dramatic. I see that as a winning combination. That’s it for today. More to come. 

Hope Bridge - Day 5

I enjoy watching movies that are shot on location. They seem more real, genuine, and authentic than films that are shot in a studio or on a sound stage. Our film, Hope Bridge, is being shot completely on location. No green screens or fake shots. It’s as real as it gets. That’s why I believe Hope Bridge is going to be special. Of course, there is a down side to shooting on location. It requires a lot of hard work, planning, execution, and logistics.   It’s not only about finding the perfect location, but you also have to think about things like where is the crew going to park, where do you put hair and make-up, where and how do you feed people. And don’t forget the bathrooms.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to be considered in order to find the perfect location. Our location manager, Daniel Bowman, has done an outstanding job. He’s found the perfect backdrop to serve as our primary location for Hope Bridge. Lawrenceburg, KY is a picturesque community located about 35 miles west of Lexington.

The folks in this community have opened their arms and have welcomed the cast and crew of Hope Bridge with an enthusiastic embrace. They have been great from the Mayor’s office to the Police Department. Everyone has been on board. Nowhere is that more true than with Robert Myles, who is Lawrenceburg’s City Attorney. He sees the film as an opportunity for economic development for the region. In fact, he’s hoping our film will be a catalyst for more productions to come to his city. Hollywood is certainly welcome in the streets of Lawrenceburg.

Day 5 or should I say Night 1 has certainly needed the kind of support that Mr. Myles has offered. I’m sure some of the town’s people might feel an army has invaded their town. Although the cameras don’t start rolling until 9:30 a.m., most of the crew arrive hours earlier to start preparing for the shoot. Tables and chairs and tents go up throughout the town. An array of trucks arrive, and equipment is unpacked with precision. It’s like watching a colony of ants going about their business.

But there is a design in all of the madness. From an outsiders view, it might look like chaos; however, in reality, everybody knows their job and what must be done.

Thanks once again to the folks here in Lawrenceburg for you help and support.

More to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 6

When the production schedule came out, everyone knew that Day 6 was going to be Hope Bridge’s most challenging and ambitious day. Essentially, it’s “bridge day”. Since the movie is called Hope Bridge, it’s obvious that a bridge plays a major role in this film, not only from a physical perspective but, more importantly, metaphorically.

The scenes that take place on the bridge are some of the most important scenes in the film. That’s why everybody in the cast and crew look forward to “bridge day” with anticipation. There’s a sense of excitement and a sense of fear. Can we pull this off and make it work?

Putting it in perspective requires knowing a little bit about the back story. It’s been a difficult process finding the right bridge and acquiring permission to use it. A number of bridges were considered across the Kentucky River; but for one reason or another none of them would work for our key scenes.

One choice finally emerged at the last moment to save the day. A closed bridge that hasn’t been used for years located near Camp Nelson turned out to be the perfect choice. The bridge is located about 35 miles southeast of Lexington. It was the job of Thomas Green, our gaffer, to make it work. Thomas’ job certainly wasn’t going to be easy because of the remote location and the fact that the bridge has no lights or electricity.

A gaffer is responsible for electric and grip. Part of the job requires being both an artist and a scientist. You have to know something about power loads and consumption as well as the artistic look of different forms of light. I asked Thomas how he felt about the rigging of the light fixtures on the bridge. He said he was pleased with the results. He was able to achieve the vision that Isaac Pletcher, Director of Photography, wanted represented on the screen.

Thomas is a recent film graduate from Regent University in Virginia. He knew that “bridge day” or I should say” bridge night” would be difficult because all of the scenes are shot in the "dark of night" and in a very remote location. It’s been challenging. If you ask me, he and his crew are pulling off miracles.

One of the other things you have to consider is safety. Having 50 people running around in the dark can lead to problems. As a precaution, we had a rescue boat stationed on the river just in case of an emergency. The producers just want everybody to be safe and secure.

Now that Day 6 is in the books, everyone’s breathing a sigh of relief and experiencing a sense of accomplishment. We’re feeling good as we head into the last two-thirds of the production.

More to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 7

Today featured more night scenes. We also moved back to Lawrenceburg from Camp Nelson where we shot previous night scenes at a closed bridge over the Kentucky river.

A few days ago one of the crew members made a comment that sorta stuck with me. He said Hope Bridge feels like a road movie. I have to agree. We are moving around a lot. Although we may not be making Rain Man, a film that featured a road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles, our main character, Jackson, played by Booboo Stewart, is undoubtedly on an emotional and spiritual journey.

Part of the reason why it feels like a road movie is because a number of scenes take place in a traveling vehicle which, I might add, is not easy to shoot. Last night during the wee hours of the morning, Jackson and Sophie, played by Rebecca Robles, drove around the empty streets of Lawrenceburg and vicinity; however, they really were not driving. The crew spent several hours rigging their vehicle on an auto transport. The vehicle was then towed with a camera mounted on the side of the vehicle. All of this is done for safety purposes. The actors don’t need to concentrate on driving. After all, we want them to concentrate on a good performance.

Preparing the car also means hiding lighting sources so the lighting seems natural. As I said, it takes a lot of time and effort to make this work.

Earlier in the evening before the driving scene, cast and crew descended on Stoneridge Street to the surprise of the local residents. It was a last minute change. Like everybody in Lawrenceburg, the residents welcomed us with open arms.

Over at Betty White’s house across from our shooting location, it seems like the entire neighhood gathered to watch the action. Betty said it was exciting to see a film crew. She never imagined it would ever happen on her street. All the neighbors seemed to enjoy themselves as a spontaneous party broke out. After the scene was completed, several of the residents joined Booboo Steward and crew for a picture-taking session. To tell you the truth, everybody on this film is having too much fun.

Meantime, back at the production office, the production assistants or PAs had some downtime after a very hard week on the job. They took a much-needed break with a few games, fellowship and, of course, a song or two.

Tomorrow night is another night shoot before our day off. Hopefully, everybody can get some much-needed rest on Sunday.

More to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 8

We’ve finally reached week’s end. After four consecutive nights of shooting, I think everyone in the cast and crew are ready for a little downtime.

Although it’s been exhausting, we’ve accomplished a lot over the last few nights. Some of the most significant and complex scenes are now in our rear view mirror. A big thank you to everyone. You are making Hope Bridge a roaring success. Because of your efforts and sacrifice, I have no doubt lives will be impacted and changed by this film.

Saturday was an unusual day because we had two set-ups that required a company move from one location to another. We started at a diner on US-68 near Wilmore, KY. Although it was only a few shots, it kept us busy for nearly four hours. We’re averaging about five pages per day. That’s moving at a fast clip compared to a typical studio film.  

We have a great team that knows how to work together and to move quickly. It really shows what teamwork can accomplish. As the sun was going down, the cast and crew moved back to Camp Nelson to shoot more driving scenes around Lancaster, KY.

We have about 50 people working with the crew on this film. I’m sure you’re probably wondering what all these people do. If you’ve ever stayed in a movie theater after the film has finished, you probably realize that the credits seem to go on forever. There are some strange titles like gaffer, key grip, best boy, and foley. They’re all important positions that are critical to the success of any film. There are a couple positions I want to highlight.

The First Assistant Director is the backbone of any production, and we have a great one in Joe Battaglia. I have to tell you, he seems like the hardest working guy on the set. That’s not taking anything away from the other crew members. Joe is in constant motion and never seems to stop because everything really depends on his ability to manage and supervise every detail.

The Director often gets the credit, but it’s the First Assistant Director who gets the job done. Joe understands a principle that is crucial to any successful production which is how to be firm but polite. Being the First Assistant Director, you can come off as being bossy and pushy. After all, you have to tell people where to go and what to do. Joe sets the right tone and is respectful to everyone. That’s the way it ought to be, and we’re lucky to have him.

I love to highlight positions that often get overlooked. No movie would ever get made without “the all important production assistants or PAs”.  Our PAs are amazing. They are some of the hardest working people I have ever seen.

What does a production assistant do, you ask. Everything. They are problem solvers and carry out every task imaginable. For example, take Hudson Barry, our Key Set PA. Hudson had the thankless duty of being our RV wrangler. In other words, it was his responsibility for driving and maintaining our recreational vehicles. The only problem is one of our RVs was a lemon. It wouldn’t start. It blew (or shredded) a tire out on US-60. Hudson was stranded for several hours before help arrived. All in a day’s work. And you thought movie making was glamorous.

Hudson also had the task of controlling traffic on the first day. He stood in torrential rain all day. A big thank you to Hudson and to all the other production assistants for your dedication.  

More to come. 

Hope Bridge - Day 10

Cast and crew now find themselves back in Lawrenceburg, KY for six consecutive days of shooting at the Spencer House. Most of the shots are interior, featuring the lead character Jackson, played by Booboo Stewart, along with his mom Robin(Sam Sorbo) and little sister Lillie (Sage Stewart .

It’s tight quarters to say the least. It’s a real house with a real family that we’re using to shoot a large portion of our film. The family actually had to move out to make room for our production. Can you imagine having fifty strangers running around your house for six days? It’s quite a scene.

The Director, Joshua Overbay, wanted realism for Hope Bridge. That’s why he decided not to shoot on a sound stage and opted for a real location. It does present challenges shooting in such a confined space. All the walls and hallways are real. You especially feel claustrophobic after 10 hours of shooting. You sorta feel like the walls are closing in.

With temperatures rising into the 90’s along with the humidity, both cast and crew certainly experienced a great deal of discomfort. There’s little to no air, and during takes all fans have to be turned off.

There’s also the issue of light to deal with. Light coming from the outside has to be blacked out in order to create a realistic and natural look. There’s also the difficulty of staying on schedule. Each week presents its own unique set of challenges. And this week is no different. We’re going to have to deal with the heat index reaching into the 100 hundreds.

If you’ve never been on a movie set, it’s quite a sight to behold. I really can’t emphasize just how chaotic it feels. Another thing I can’t help but notice is the unique language the crew uses to communicate with each other. Of course, we’re familiar with words  like action, cut or print. But have you ever heard the expressions hotpoints and martini? Hotpoints is called out when a crew member is carrying a light, a ladder, or any other large item. It’s a way of telling people to get out of the way and make a clear pathway. When time is essential in setting up a shot, every minute counts. Another favorite phrase is martini. When the Director calls martini, it means it’s the last shot of the day.

I also had a chance today to talk with Christy and David Eaton. They are the originators and the visionaries of Hope Bridge. Their efforts have made this production possible. Christy said, “After ten days it’s starting to feel real. This is really happening. All of these people are breathing life into the vision.”

Thanks Christy and Dave for all or your hard work and dedication. When you think about it, there are a lot of people who talk about making a movie or perhaps even write a script, but it is so rare when it actually comes true. Their journey is an amazing story.

More to come. 

Hope Bridge - Day 11

The production of Hope Bridge is now entering the home stretch with only seven days left. Wow! It’s hard to believe that it’s going to be over soon. It feels like we just started yesterday. When you’re having fun, time does fly.

Today featured more interiors at the Spencer House in Lawrenceburg, KY. In our movie, this is the home of our lead character, Jackson, and his family. The one thing that struck me today is the enormous focus an actor must have in order to achieve a great performance. Usually when we watch movies, we don’t think about the fact that there are probably dozens of people watching on set.

In the case of Hope Bridge, there were 20 people watching a scene that took place between Jackson (BooBoo Steward) and Robin (Sam Sorbo). The scene occur in the kitchen as the crew watch from the dining room. In the living room, there were probably 15 interns working on their PCs. I can see how it can be very distracting for an actor. It does require focus, no question about it. Somehow you have to shut everything out, stay in character, and remain focused on the task at hand. I think good actors are capable of transcending what is obviously not real and turning it into a something that becomes in their minds a reality.

You may not realize this, but the typical Hollywood feature has an average budget of over $100 million. Our budget for Hope Bridge is nowhere near that figure. We’re not even in the same universe. Today, I had a chance to talk to Joshua Overbay, Director of Hope Bridge. I asked him about the challenges of shooting a low-budget independent feature.

Josh said that one of his biggest concerns is the schedule. Trying to shoot a 90 page script in 18 days is practically impossible. Although he is pleased with the results so far, the only way it’s been possible is because of a lot of hard work and dedication of the crew.

One factor that helped meet the demands of the schedule is Josh’s relationship with Thomas Green, the film’s gaffer, and Isaac Pletcher, the Director of Photography. The three of them went to film school together at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. The three have worked together on multiple projects and have a good working relationship. In fact, Joshua and Isaac formed their own production company and plan on making feature movies together. It’s because they know each other so well that they can accomplish the impossible and make the schedule work.

Joshua says they are averaging over 26 setups per day. In “film speak”, the term is used any time you have to physically move the camera, which usually means that you have to re-light the scene, which burns up valuable time. Because they anticipate each other’s moves perfectly, Hope Bridge, thus far, has achieved solid production values. And this is really the key for low-budget films.

Although we may not have the money the big boys have, we want our film to look just as good. Trust me. It can be done, but it does require a certain level of sacrifice and commitment. For example, the department heads for departments such as camera, production design, wardrobe, and electric and grip have their own budgets. They have to find a way to make their dollars do more, so they must become creative. In the case of the Art Department, they often found their props at yard sales, Craig’s List, or E-bay.

And, sometimes, you just have to become a deal maker and offer people a piece of the movie. Location Manager, Daniel Bowman, had to find locations where property or business owners were willing to take less money than would be normally expected. It’s all about stretching a dollar as far as it will go.

A few years ago, I’m not sure we could have made this movie—certainly not at this budget level. We’re shooting Hope Bridge on a Canon C-300, which is a cinematic digital camera. Today, even Hollywood films are being shot in the digital format. Compared to shooting on 35mm film, the costs saving with a digital camera are astounding. One of the other advantages with Canon C-300 is the fact that it produces  outstanding  images in low light, which translates into using less lights and setup time.

And, finally, where would we be without Asbury University? Until recently, there were only a few good film schools in the country. Now, film programs have exploded. So there’s a whole lot more people who know film and are good at it. That includes Asbury University which has an excellent program. The production assistant and the crew working on our film are proof of that.

When you put it all together, Hope Bridge, as a low-budget, independent feature, has an opportunity to compete with, I believe, films that have budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.

More to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 12

“It’s time to make the donuts.” Those are the words uttered by our gaffer, Thomas Green, as he went off to another day of working on the production of Hope Bridge. Making today’s donuts once again took place in Lawrenceburg, KY at the Spencer House. We’ve been there four straight days shooting in very confined spaces. Today featured a total of 31 setups and a very ambitious schedule.

Our first shot of the day started at 2:00 p.m. In the script, however, the scene is placed at 6:00 p.m. 

The lighting is just one of many issues that makes it challenging to "make the donuts" today. I overheard Isaac Pletcher, Director of Photography, commenting, “If you ask me years from now, I won’t be able to tell you how we pulled today off.” It seems like every day on the set of Hope Bridge miracles are becoming common place. It took a lot of complicated lighting to make 2:00 p.m. look like 6:00 p.m.

The trick is to make the sun appear lower in the sky, which means you must have the effect of a golden glow of light within your shot. There sure are a lot of things to think about when you make a movie. Paying attention to detail is a must. And that responsibility rests on the shoulders of Zack Brewer, who is the script supervisor. Not only does Zack have to make sure that the actors are following the script “to a tee”, but he also must keep an eye on continuity. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Have you ever seen a movie where two actors are having a discussion at the kitchen  table. In the shot we can see a cup sitting on the table. Then we have a cutaway. In the next shot you don’t see the cup anymore. Somebody goofed. It’s Zack’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen on Hope Bridge.

There are many moving parts in the making of a motion picture. There’s one person who seems to be everywhere but has no real role in the actual production of Hope Bridge. Her name is Chelsea Babcock. Chelsea is a recent graduate of Asbury University and has a degree in Media Communications. She is the BTS Production Director for Hope Bridge. Chelsea has an important and vital role. It’s her task to capture the behind-the-scenes footage or a better way to phrase it is The Making of Hope Bridge. She roams around with a Canon 7D camera that’s capable of capturing both high resolution video and photos. 

Her work will ultimately be used for the DVD, social media and the internet. The material will also be used for marketing and promotion of the film. It is something everyone appreciates when the film is finished; however, when the movie is being shot, often people can see you as a nuisance or distraction. So Chelsea has had to find her place and blend in to the background.

Chelsea says she enjoys her role. This is her first time shooting behind-the-scenes footage. She stated, “I like being around the action. Being on set. And I don’t have to deal with the pressure of actually making the movie.” She went on to say, “My biggest challenge is being there at the right time to capture those special moments.”

Like many of the other crew members working on Hope Bridge, she will also be going her separate way at the end of the movie. Chelsea will be heading back to her native Minnesota to look for work. She hopes to land a job as an editor. We wish success for her and for all of the cast and crew that have sacrificed so much and have worked so hard in making Hope Bridge a reality.

More to come

Hope Bridge - Day 13

Finally after days of shooting interior shots, we’ve moved our operations to the great outdoors. We haven’t ventured too far though. We’re shooting in the driveway of the Spencer House. If you don’t already know, the Spencer House has been our location for the entire week.

It’s been a hot week here in Lawrenceburg, KY. Humidity levels have been off the chart. As a result, it’s created a lot of discomfort for the cast and crew. The good news is tomorrow we’re shooting over night, and there is talk of a cold front coming in to cool things off on Sunday. Good news indeed.

We have only five days to go. Next week, we’re going to be at multiple locations. I think everybody will be looking forward to a change of scenery.

The crew is already dreading the end. The clock is running down. There’s been a sense of community and comradary on the set of Hope Bridge. After you work together for four weeks, you start to bond together as a team. I suspect friendships have been developed that might very well last a lifetime. Twenty years from now, most people couldn’t tell you what they did on any given day; however, working on a project like Hope Bridge is something you will never forget. Working on their first movie for some is something people seem to remember with fondness. As I said, it will be about the relationships that are formed that will last and be cherished.

I know most of the cast and crew have met David and Christy Eaton. And if you’re remotely familiar with the themes of Hope Bridge, you realize they revolve around suicide and mental illness. But here’s what you probably don’t know. There’s a deeper story to why Hope Bridge became a reality in the first place.

I met Dave and Christy in December 2011. They had been working on a screenplay for over six months. In fact, it was the first time they had ever attempted to write anything. No they hadn’t suddenly gone Hollywood or become starstruck. Dave and Christy are ordinary people living an ordinary life, raising six children in Milford, OH. So why would anybody make a movie about suicide? It’s not exactly a popular topic. Neither is it the type of subject material that would guarantee a box office hit.

For Dave and Christy, the topic of suicide is real and personal. They have experienced it at an intimate level. The Eatons have lived it. And they know and understand how suicide impacts individuals, families, and the community. They wanted to make a difference and help people to never have to experience the tragedy they faced. Several years ago, Dave lost his first wife to suicide, the mother to three of his children. It was devastating, to say the least.

But that’s not where the story ended. Later on, Dave and Christy had to deal with close friends who had a son that took his own life. Dave and Christy searched their hearts and asked what they could do to keep it from happening again. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death for young adults. As they looked for answers, they felt God tugging on their hearts to, of all things, make a feature film.

They felt compelled to start writing. After finishing the screenplay, they asked me to come on as a producer. We spent the last year and a half going through multiple rewrites. In January of this year, Cincinnati-based Rebel Pilgrim Productions entered the picture. They took Christy and Dave’s vision and help to made it a reality. The script was reworked, and finally we all felt we had a great story to share.

I asked Dave and Christy how they felt about the new screenplay. They said, “Although the circumstance and situations have changed from the original script, we feel that the spirit and vision has remained the same. We got into this because we wanted to save lives. And with this movie, we feel it’s possible. Our desire was to shed light on the issue of suicide. It’s something that people don’t want to talk about. There’s a sense of shame that’s often associated with the topic with those who have gone through it.”

Dave and Christy are great people. I admire their commitment. Hope Bridge has seen its ups and down over the past two years. It’s been a bumpy road to say the least. However, the Eatons have been determined to get this movie made. They’re passionate people who believe Hope Bridge isn’t just another movie. It’s more than that. In the next few days, I hope you get an opportunity to thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made.

More to come. 

Hope Bridge - Day 14

It’s a wrap! No, not the movie. That comes next week. After six straight days filming at the Spencer House, here in Lawrenceburg, KY, it’s time to call this location a wrap.

Today, the crew is preparing for an overnight shoot. Once again, it’s time for the old Jeep Cherokee to make its way onto the streets Lawrenceburg and the immediate surrounding area.

Sophie, who is the main female character in our film, affectionately calls her ride Sally. Our crew has worked hard to outfit and rig Sally with a spider mount, which is crucial in order to support our camera. Sally is then placed on an auto transport and then towed. As I said it’s a lot of work to get this right. It’s also a very time-consuming process; however, it is worth the effort because we are getting great shots with this technique. After all, the bottom line is “it’s all about making a great movie”.

Before I go any further, I want to write a disclaimer—not that anybody is complaining about working on the film or complaining about our tight schedule. I just thought you might like to know the type of sacrifice everyone is making. The days have been long. Most people working on Hope Bridge put in between 12 to 14 hours each day. In addition, they also have to drive 45 minutes to their hotel or dorm. And remember, they have to do this for six consecutive days before getting one day off. When you’re making a movie, it literally consumes every moment of your day. You’re fortunate to get a little rest or sleep before you have to do it all over again.

This crew is amazing. I haven’t heard one word of complaining. It sure helps that practically everyone in the production of Hope Bridge is under the age of 25. Thank goodness for youth and energy.

I’ve been asked why our schedule is so tight. Why is it only an 18-day shoot? You may not realize this but most typical studio films have a production schedule ranging from 36 to 120 days. What a luxury!

Hope Bridge is no different than any other low-budget, independent film. There’s nothing magical about 18 days. Our budget would only allow us to shoot longer than 18 days. Each day is expensive to be in production. You burn through money at an unbelievable rate. You have to pay for equipment rental, food, hotels, actors, props, and locations—just to name a few. Sure, it would have been nice to have a few extra days. But our cast and crew believe in this project and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

There’s really no magic about filmmaking. It all comes down to hard work and a willingness to do whatever you have to do to get the job done. You might ask how we make this 18-day schedule work. That job belongs to Isaac Stambaugh, who is our Unit Production Manager. It’s one of the most important jobs on set. Sometimes in the industry it’s referred to as a Line Producer or a Director of Production.

Isaac’s job is to come up with a production schedule which serves as the blueprint or bible for Hope Bridge. Think of Isaac as a general moving his pieces around the board. He has to group actors, equipment, vehicles, locations and props in such a way as to utilize their effectiveness. But, more importantly, they have to be cost-effective. A production schedule tells you what is going to happen each day, which scenes will be shot, how long they will take, and how many pages will be produced. For example, in our production schedule, six days were planned at one location, the Spencer House. We don’t shoot at the Spencer House and then shoot somewhere else and then come back to the Spencer House. That wouldn’t make any sense. Obviously, that means that the scenes are shot out of sequence. But it’s the only way to efficiently maximize our resources and stay in budget.

Another example is Kevin Sabo who played the counselor. He had only four days of work in the script; therefore, you would want a schedule having him working four consecutive days. It would make no sense to have an actor sitting around doing nothing.

Isaac has pulled off a miracle and made our schedule work. A good Unit Production Manager has to know just about everything concerning the production cycle in order to make everything work.

I asked Isaac how he thought things were going. “We’re on budget, and we’re on time, but that could change in the next hour. We’ve got usable footage. But next week we have a couple of big days on Tuesday and Wednesday. We’re not home yet.” It’s Isaac’s job to worry. In fact, if Isaac’s not worried, he’s worried about not being worried. Keep up the good work Isaac. You’ve gotten us this far.

More to come. 

Hope Bridge - Day 16

Back to high school. That’s right. The cast and crew of Hope Bridge returned to high school today, to shot a number of key scenes at a local school here in Lawrenceburg, KY. This was perhaps our biggest production day so far. We had over 100 extras on set. It required a great deal of logistics and management to keep the production on schedule. As I said, it was a big day.

The film industry calls extras "background actors". When we watch movies, there are a lot of things we don’t think about that give movies a sense of realism and plausibility. For example the things that are happening in the background during a scene. How boring it would be to see two actors having a discussion on a street corner without people walking in and out of the frame.

We also shot our big action scene today. It’s the first time we used a real stunt coordinator. Staging a fight scene may seem easy, but it’s not. It has to look real without people getting hurt. In this case it really looked like someone was getting beaten badly, even to the extent of spitting out blood. Notice I said “it looked like”.

We were fortunate to have veteran stunt coordinator, Nils Stewart, who has over 100 film credits, working on Hope Bridge. He helped to make the scene look like the real deal. It’s hard to believe it took six hours to shoot the fight scene that will only run no more than about a minute and a half in the movie. And you thought making a movie was easy.

And what about the 100 high schoolers who showed up as extras? There’s no guarantee that any of them will make the final cut of the film. Why would they give up a perfectly good summer day to wait around for hours? Kera from Corbin, KY said she did it for the experience. She wants to work in the film business some day. Kim from Harrisburg, KY is majoring in theater. She found it to be interesting and fun. And Laura said she couldn’t believe how much went into shooting just one scene.

Everybody I talked to was positive. It was fun playing Hollywood for a day. However, I did talk to a number of students like Kera who are looking into the film and media industry as a career. Thank you guys for coming out and being part of our movie. Without you, our high school scenes would not of been a success. You brought life and energy into today’s production.

With so many people on set today, the crew really had to step up their game. Our plan worked. Everyone knew where they needed to be and when to be there. When you pull off a day like today, there’s a real sense of satisfaction.

I had a chance to chat with Isaac Pletcher, Director of Photography. Isaac is an interesting person to talk to. You might be wondering what a director of photography actually does. It’s obviously a very crucial role. A DP is responsible for the visual look of the film. You have to understand lighting, lenses, focal lengths and F-stops.

Isaac gradated with a film degree from Regent University. I asked him why he wanted to be a cinematographer. He said, “When I started at Regent, I had every intention of being a director, I discovered I really didn’t enjoy it. I fell in love with cinematography because I enjoy the creative aspect. It’s challenging to take the vision of the director and make it a reality.”  

I wanted to know about Isaac’s lighting style and how it applied to Hope Bridge. He stated, “Like Josh our director, I primarily like to work with natural lighting if possible. Instead of using artificial lights, I’d rather redirect existing light to the subject. It’s been my approach for Hope Bridge. With our budgetary limits, natural light was our best option.” Isaac went on to say that he’s pleased with the results he has achieved with Hope Bridge. With the film’s subject material, the lighting style he chose has helped to create a more atmospheric mood, which helps push the story forward.

Only two days to go with more to come.

Hope Bridge - Day 17

When you are a producer, you get to do a lot of fun and interesting things. Today, I had the privilege of taking Tantoo Cardinal from her hotel to the set of Hope Bridge. Ms. Cardinal plays the role of Lana, a long lost grandmother of our lead character, Jackson (BooBoo Stewart). Tantoo Cardinal is a veteran actor, who has an impressive resume of film credits. She’s been featured in Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall, and, in one of my personal favorites, Smoke Signals.

Ms. Cardinal is from Canada’s First Nation. As we drove out to the set, she shared her personal experiences about being in the movies. It was really a treat to hear her share her story as we drove along the backroads of Kentucky. Her passion for film was very obvious. She also has a love and respect for the land. In recent years, she has directed her attention toward environmental issues and has become a spokesperson for the movement.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would draw her to come to Kentucky and be part of a low-budget, independent film. After all, she has never been here before and has not worked with anyone on the set of Hope Bridge. She said she was drawn to the character of Lana. It’s obviously a part she has played before. Without giving away too much of our story or plot, her character helped to bring healing and restoration to Jackson.

Watching her work was a pleasure. She obviously knows how to get into character and find the right mood. On the way back to the hotel, we had an opportunity to talk about today's work, and I asked her how she does that. She came in for only one day and had no opportunity to run lines with the other actors but somehow, magically, she finds the character. She said, “It’s a process. You develop techniques over time. You just kind of go into a place, and you find it.” Hope Bridge is fortunate in having actors like Tan too Cardinal, Kevin Sorbo, and Booboo Jackson. A lot of Hollywood films don’t have the impressive cast our little independent feature offers.

Here on Day 17, we shot at Robert Myles’ farmhouse in Shelby County. Ky. Robert is the city attorney for Lawrenceburg, KY. This guy deserves a medal. He has really helped make the production of Hope Bridge go smoothly. He knows everybody in Lawrenceburg and Anderson County.  We shot most of our film in areas where Robert knows people in the community. Whenever we needed something to happen, he made it happen.

This farm was the perfect backdrop to serve as Lana’s farmhouse in Tennessee. It is extremely picturesque with rolling hills and plenty of cows. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this any better. It’s without a doubt the most remote location we have shot at so far. If you want to know where the middle of nowhere is, we found it.

Robert was so gracious in letting us take over his house for the entire day. We shot a number of scenes both inside and outside of his house, which happens to have been built in 1820. Our thanks to Mr. Myles for all of his assistance and support.

One of the things I believe will make Hope Bridge a great movie is we have found “killer” locations. Every one of them has been a home run. I had said early on that, in my opinion, Hope Bridge is a “road movie”. That certainly has turned out to be true. That’s why our locations needed to be spot on.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but tomorrow is the last day of the movie shoot. So far, we’ve been on time and on budget. We’ve captured every shot we needed. I’ve checked with the Director, the Line Producer, and the Director of Photography. They are all pleased with the results.

To tell you the truth, most movies at this point could not say that. People are getting along. There’s been no personal conflict or any problems of any sort. I think it’s something everyone can be proud of. The cast and crew have done their job and have exhibited a “can do” attitude. Some people might accuse me of being overly positive. I’m not going to tell you that everything has been perfect; however, the positives have just been overwhelming and have outweighed the negatives.

More to come. 

Hope Bridge Day 18—it’s a Wrap

It’s official. At 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, 2013, the production of Hope Bridge came to an end. IT’S A WRAP!

But, before we get to that, let’s go over how Day 18 played out. The cast and crew moved back to Lawrenceburg for our final day. We started shooting early at Smith’s Gas and Grocery near Lawrenceburg, Ky. I know this is sounding like a broken record by now, but today’s shots featured our famous Jeep Cherokee, along with our main characters Jackson (Booboo Stewart) and Sophie (Rebeca Robles) .

After the gas station scene, the cast and crew broke for lunch. It was starting to sink in. This was our final day and our final lunch together. By midafternoon, part of the cast and crew shot a few scenes with our Jeep Cherokee crossing the Lawrenceburg Bridge over the Kentucky River. The remaining crew started cleaning out our production office on Main Street.

Shortly before 4:00 p.m., we closed the production office for the last time. I got the feeling that people were feeling a little sad when we locked the doors. By 5:00 p.m., everybody was together for our final scene, which was to take place on a residential street in Lawrenceburg. What made the final scene so special is that it actually is the final scene in the movie. It seemed only fitting. It was an exterior shot with Jackson and Sophie driving her Jeep Cherokee up a street and parking outside a house.

After a few takes, the crowd grew increasingly larger as several neighbors came out to watch the action. We knew the end was only minutes away. The final shot ran for three minutes as Sophe and Jackson entered the house. All that remained was our Jeep Cherokee over which would role Hope Bridge's end credits.

Soon our director, Josh Overbay, would utter the final words.” It’s a picture wrap for Hope Bridge.” With that it was truly over.

I asked a few crew members how they felt about the conclusion of Hope Bridge. Hudson Barry, Key Set Production Assistant, said, “I feel depressed, but I am excited to move on to the next thing.”  Jennifer Silver, Second Assistant Director, told me, “It won’t hit me until a couple of days later. It’s sort of a bittersweet feeling. A lot of these people I’ve worked with I won’t see again.” As for Thomas Green, our gaffer, who’s been on a number of these types of productions said, “Afterwards it always feels like a funeral.”

Joe Battaglia, First Assistant Director, offered these comments. “It sure feels like a lot of stress has been lifted off of my shoulders.” Joe was like a lot of people on the production of Hope Bridge. He worked over 80 hours per week. I’m sure you can imagine what kind of stress that can cause. We all realized that everything was riding on these 18 days. There was no room for error. It seemed to be a common theme that was on everyone’s mind that finally the stress was over and that there would be a chance to get some rest. And, I might add, some well-deserved rest at that.

David Eaton, one of our producers and visionaries, told me this. “It’s going to be hard to go back to my day job to find anything meaningful. It will be sad. It was awesome to see God’s work taking place.” Many others felt the same. Production Designer, Theresa Strebeler, stated, “It seems like we just started, but it also feels like we’ve been going on forever. Now I’m going to have to start thinking about what the next job is going to be.”

Craft Coordinator, Stephanie Kruthaupt, had an interesting comment. “It felt like we were going to war together. It was a shared experience, and, in the end, I found myself hugging people that I had not connected with during the production.”

But, perhaps, Anna Phillips, Second Second Assistant Director, summed it up best. “I am sad. I will not see a lot of these people again. I’m going back to school for my senior year. But a lot of the people that I went to school with and worked on this film together with will be gone.”  Anna’s right. After today, everybody will be going their separate ways. And the truth is many of the people who have worked together for the past month may never see each other again.

Hope Bridge was a shared experience that nobody will soon forget. For now there is a wrap party on Friday night to look forward to.

What comes next for Hope Bridge? There is still a lot of work ahead. The film must be edited, scored, and color graded. That process can take up to a year. But, in the meantime, Rebel Pilgrim Productions will be releasing A Strange Brand of Happy in September in a theater near you.

Well, no more to come. No more updates. No more stories. You’ll just have to go see the movie in September 2014.